About the Self Evidence by Akhmad Zakayev
The Decree number 1-B of the ChRI Parliament describes the proclamation of the ‘Emirate’ by the former President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya Dokka Umarov as ‘a self withdrawal from the execution of presidential duties’. One could try and guess why this self-evident ‘gravest crime’ (article 2.2 of the ChRI Constitution) is called ‘a self-withdrawal’. I do not purport to impinge on the exclusive right of the Chechen Members of Parliament to interpret the laws of the Chechen Republic (article 64.14). I shall simply put forward my impressions.
One does not have to be an expert in law in order to see that Dokka Umarov’s statement about the proclamation of the ‘Emirate’ is a violation of article 1.3 of the Constitution. According to this article, “State sovereignty and independence of the Chechen Republic are inviolable, indivisible and do not constitute the authority of the government bodies”. In an ideal case an attempt on the sovereignty and independence of a state constitutes an attempt to subjugate this state to the control of another sovereign entity. Dokka Umarov proclaims that the Chechen Republic becomes a part of some ‘Emirate’. It is difficult to find any real difference between this and the assertion that the Chechen Republic constitutes an integral part of Russia. The above mentioned article of the ChRI Constitution does not make any exemptions either for the President Dokka Umarov, however extreme the conditions he finds himself in, or for the former mufti Kadyrov, whatever problems he might have with this or that jamaat.
Article 72 of the ChRI Constitution contains the words of the oath sworn by the person assuming the office of the President. “I solemnly swear to be a loyal servant of the people of the Chechen Republic, to strengthen and defend its sovereignty, to adhere to the Constitution and its laws, to guarantee the rights and freedoms of its citizens, to carry out in good faith the incumbent honourable duties of the President of the Chechen Republic”. I’d be amazed if anyone can demonstrate a part of this oath which has not been violated by the famous statement of D.Umarov.
Article 74 of the Chechen Constitution states that “The President can only be relieved of his duty in the case of committing a crime. The decision to start proceedings for his removal on the basis of such an accusation would lie with the Parliament which requires a majority vote of no less than two thirds of all MPs”. It is unlikely that at present it would be easy to relieve Dokka of his duties in accordance with this constitutional procedure, for want of the quorum, for example. On the other hand, is it a mere accident that the text of Umarov’s statement was composed in such a way that MPs, bypassing lengthy and difficult procedures, would be able to accept the fact of ‘self-withdrawal’, equating this situation with the case of a death or serious illness of the President? Judging by the publications intended to discredit parliamentary resolutions relating to Umarov’s statement in every way possible, the organization which was behind the ‘Emirate plan’, was extremely well informed about all the details of the work of the Chechen Parliament. The safehouses, the names – it had them all at its disposal. It is clear that the “withdrawal from the execution of duties” – or to put it in the words of the ideologues of the Emirate – a voluntary (sincere) transformation of the ChRI President into the Emir of the Emirate, was no accident, but in fact, the main goal of the plan. What had not been planned was the parliamentary resolutions, although everything possible must have been done to avoid such surprises. As we remember, Russia has tried by all means possible to shift the legitimate Chechen position of state independence. For instance, in 1997-98 the then mufti Akhmad Kadyrov would insist on calling the President Aslan Maskhadov a Padishah, while calling the existence of a Parliament and of political parties at variance with Islam. Movladi Udugov was another person who, together with the mufti, showed a profound religious concern trying to establish to the best of his ability an ‘Islamic order’ in the republic.The pressure on the President was so high that in an attempt to prevent an armed conflict he was forced to issue a clearly anti-constitutional decree on the introduction of the Sharia rule in the Republic. The Parliament came to the rescue by vetoing the Decree. The President was told that he had the right of legislative initiative (article 73 of the ChRI Constitution) but not legislative powers (article 61 of the ChRI Constitution). As part of the anti-crisis measures a government commission had been set up to develop suggestions on changes and amendments to the ChRI Constitution. The second anti-Chechen war which started shortly afterwards prevented the Commission to complete the work they had embarked upon.
Chairman of the Chechen Parliament Ruslan Alikhadjiev captured by the Russians in 2000 disappeared without trace. It is clear that he had been dispatched for refusing to pronounce Aslan Maskhadov an outlaw and the Chechen Republic – part of Russia. Ruslan Alikhadjiev’s deputy Isa Temirov, who was captured by the Russians later, had survived. But the payment for his survival was the meeting of the Chechen MPs in Moscow, orchestrated by him, which impeached the President Aslan Maskhadov. The Russian authorities had been very quick to forgive Isa Temirov’s part in the capture of Budenovsk in June 1995 together with Shamil Basaev. There is no doubt that the decision of the Chechen MPs in Moscow to relieve Aslan Maskhadov of his duties could not have any legitimacy, if only because of the conditions in which they had gathered. Nor would it have been legitimate of the deputies to carry out their threat to relinquish their authority passed under duress. All attempts at transforming the Chechen President into an Emir, and the Government Defence Committee into a Madjlisul Shura with legislative powers had a very clear goal – to deprive the Chechen independence of its legitimate base. The authors of the colourful battles over the introduction of amendments and changes into the Constitution had been fully aware of the true nature of those steps. One would assume that many others took part out of the best intentions, unaware of the next stage planned by the instigators of the constitutional changes – to abandon all the changes together with the Constitution itself. By the way, the changes and amendments, allegedly introduced into the Constitution during the second anti-Chechen war do not have any legitimacy, even if the GKO-Madjlisul Shura convened twenty times, because article 62 of the ChRI Constitution clearly states that ‘the introduction of amendments and changes into the Chechen Constitution are the exclusive prerogative of the ChRI Parliament’. The process itself, of course, had served the purpose to naturally remove from office and find a convenient justification for the MPs, who had been replaced and left with no call for by the Madjlisul Shura. A notable example was set by Vagap Tutakov, who had officially vacated his parliamentary seat. The President who had been insistently called the Emir GKO-Madjlisul Shura slowly but surely was moving to the end Dokka Umarov has led to. It is pointless to debate now whether Aslan Maskadov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev would have made the second step, having made the first. The removal from the GKO-Madjlisul Shura of the Parliamentary Chairman Zhalaudin Saralyapov, which had been enacted literally on the eve of the Emirate proclamation, should have paralysed the Chechen Parliament. The authors of the Emirate project had a very low opinion of the ‘remnants of the Chechen Parliament’ as they now call with irritation the elected representatives of the Chechen people. The Parliament reacted with a statement of 10th October 2007, speaking of resuming its activities in full thus proving the short-sightedness of the decision to discount the Chechen MPs.
During the first war the situation with the Chechen parliament had been much more complicated. The Parliamentary Chairman Akhiad Idigov had been almost the only MP who’d remained in office. Yet whenever necessary there appeared parliamentary resolutions, which had to be reckoned with. The inability to meet in pleno had not diminished the importance of parliamentary decisions, such as the appointment to his post of Zelimkhan Yandarbiev after the death of Dzhokhar Dudaev in 1996. At the same time the Parliament, represented by Akhiad Idigov, had not become a convenient tool in anyone’s hands. Zelimkhan Yandarbiev had not succeeded in persuading the Parliament to ratify the Presidential Decree on the Sharia Criminal Code. The most instructive thing about the history of the first Parliament was the way it had convened in pleno after the ceasefire and carried on to fulfil its duties until the election of new deputies on 27 January 1997. In the language of the founders of the Emirate, it had been those remnants of the Idigov Parliament that had been sufficient to organise and hold the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the ChRI in January 1997 which were praised very highly by international observers. It was also the Idigov Parliament that had introduced the well known amendments and changes to the ChRI Constitution with its Law of 11 November 1996 and its Law of 3 February 1997. One needs to dislike the Chechen people a lot to speak with such disdain about its elected representatives. In contrast to some people I admire the courage and the strength of will of the Chechens demonstrated during their fight for the freedom and honour of their country. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that only 14 out of 58 Chechen MPs had become associated in one way or another with the occupation regime established by the Russians. Magomet Khambiev’s example is a clear indication of the persuation methods which must have been used against many MPs. We could be proud of the fact that about the 33 Chechen MPs from the legitimate Chechen Parliament who continue to represent their electorate. The fact that 12 of them together with the parliamentary leadership have ended up living in Europe should only be welcomed. There are international precedents of governments who had been obliged to leave their country for the time of occupation but who had kept on functioning without losing their legitimacy. Norway and France, occupied during the Second World War, are prime examples. It is interesting to ask why the Emirate, the most important event in Muslim history, according to its proponents, was not proclaimed earlier, 2 or five years ago? Why hadn’t Shamil Basaev, Khatab or Saifula proclaimed it then? The fact is that its proponents’ rhetoric is worthless. Their clients had wanted one thing only – the proclamation of the Emirate or the Caliphate by the legitimate functioning President of the Chechen Republic. Undoubtedly there must have been many attempts to propel all Dokka Umarov’s predecessors to make this step but all of them failed, apart from the very last one. I would like to suggest that the main reason was not that Dokka Umarov was a more courageous or learned individual than Dzhokhar Dudaev, Aslan Maskhadov or Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev. As we know in Stalin’s judicial system you did not have to prove the guilt of the accused if he himself had confessed to it. The self-elimination of the Chechen independence, whatever way it could come about, has always been considered by the Russians the right solution to the Chechen issue. Both Dudaev and Maskhadov must have had to listen to many promises in exchange for their surrender of the Chechen independence.
There is no point in talking at length about the prospects of the organisation called the Emirate. The last century yields plenty of examples to that effect. The majority of Muslim countries which were usually no great friends of the Soviet Union, would be regularly terrorised by all sorts of Islamic fronts, jamaats, including all manner of Emirates. Neither President Asad in Syria, nor Saddam Hussein in Iraq, nor Muamar Kaddafi in Libya had ever experienced any problems with ‘fundamentalists’. The ‘fundamentalists’ had somehow forgiven those dictators their secular nature as well as their friendship with socialist regimes, who had openly proclaimed atheism as their official ideology. As for the Emirate a la Dokka Umarov suffice it is to say that it would exist as long as its founders need it or as long as the Chechen occupation continues and until the time when the Chechens take full control of their own country. I am writing these lines in full awareness of the fact that many people might sincerely believe in a different future for the Emirate. Time will tell, as the saying goes.
Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the ChRI